A Day by the Sea

“Vicinity to the sea is desirable, because it is easier to do nothing by the sea than anywhere else.” —E.F. Benson

Our weather in south Texas has been dreary and cold lately, but today we were given the gift of a beautiful day. I guess we appreciate them more when they are harder to come by. We spent the day with our friends John and Janice at their beach house at Indianola. Their house sits on the point, the inlet of Powderhorn Lake on one side and Matagorda Bay on the other. It’s a spectacular place to watch dolphins play, try your luck at fishing, birdwatch or just relax. It was a wonderful day…with a breathtaking sunset to finish it off.

Greenland – Land of Unending Ice

Link:https://kottke.org/18/12/greenland-land-of-unending-ice Nordhavn 57-26 Istaboa

13.2 kW Alternators and Beyond

On Dirona, we aim to always run the boat using a single power source. When we are plugged into shore, we aim to drive the entire boat off of shore-side power and never run the generator. This may sound easy, but in Europe you frequently won’t find more than a 16A shore power service and…

Krabbersgat Naviduct

We’d passed over vehicle roads in Dirona several times, for example in Boston Harbor and Norfolk, Virginia, where a vehicle tunnel runs under the waterway. But until we transited the Krabbersgat naviduct, near Enkhuizen, we’d never passed through an aqueduct over an open road. A naviduct is a special type of navigable aqueduct that also…

Enkhuizen, Netherlands

Enkhuizen, Netherlands received city rights in 1355 and, as a Dutch East India Company harbour, was among the most important cities in the country. The city once bordered the saltwater bay Zuiderzee, with sea locks to protect the harbour and adjoining canals from flooding. The completion of the Afsluitdijk dam in 1932 transformed the Zuiderzee…

Terschelling, Netherlands

Even in the Netherlands, a country of cyclists, the island of Terschelling is known for its extensive and diverse bicycle paths. It was a great landfall for us after the 160-mile run across the German Bight from Cuxhaven, Germany. After a fresh seafood lunch in town, we set of on an afternoon bicycle trip that…

Germany to the Netherlands

On our run from Germany to the Netherlands, we’d hoped to exit the German Bight on the border at Delfzjil and take the sheltered Netherlands canals through Leeuwarden to Harlingen. But the least depth through some of the waterways is an optimistic 1.9m, too shallow for our 2.1m draft. So we instead returned to the…


Envoy is berthed at Lefkas Marina, Greece and we are home in Auckland.
Beautiful gardens of beachside bar at Petriti on Corfu

Envoy anchored at Ormos Imerolia, northern Corfu with RHIB alongside jetty

This Selene trawler anchored nearby

This unusual “yellow submarine” came by with some tourists

Cruising around Corfu I hear a couple of knocking noises while under way and initially think the noise is caused by waves crashing against the hull. But it doesn’t sound right and we soon establish that the port side Naiad stabilisers are making a slight knocking noise when Envoy is in larger waves (much of the time it’s been too calm to need to use the stabilisers so we hadn’t noticed this issue). 

We send a brief audio-visual video clip of this to Internaftiki – the Naiad agents here. 
They ask us to do some further tests by disconnecting the arm from the potentiometer that controls the stabiliser fin movement so that we could move the arm and therefore the fins by hand. 
This replicates the issue without needing to go out into rough seas. Internaftiki soon advise that the problem is most likely one of the hydraulic valves and will come to Envoy, probably when we return to Lefkada. They also explain how to de-activate and lock the port side stabilisers while still using the starboard side. However we later find the knocking noise is still there, so it’s happening on both sides and we lock both fins in the central position and continue cruising in the reasonably calm conditions without our stabilisers.
We anchor off Corfu’s Gouvia Marina and early next morning go into the marina to lay alongside a jetty so that Angelos, the watermaker engineer, can fix our unit’s slight seawater leak. Angelos says you have to expect small water leaks from water makers, but I have to disagree. Anyway he fixes the leak in about an hour and after testing it we set off again heading south towards Preveza, a medium sized town on the mainland where my brother Charles will meet us.

Corfu has two huge castles known as the “old” (top) and the “new” (below), both viewed from Envoy

Passing Corfu’s wharves we spot an unusual looking aluminium naval ship – the USS Yuma. She’s a 103 metre catamaran fast transport ship for carrying troops – up to 312 of them at a speed of 43 knots – that’s 80 km/hr!

The sleek and fast USS Yuma

On the way to Preveza we spend two nights at Paxoi Island’s Lakka Bay. 
In season it’s often too crowded to anchor here but great at this time of year. 
Here we meet some old cruising acquaintances – Britons Graham and Linda from the yacht Obsession of Poole as well as meeting a bunch of Kiwis aboard Mike and Heather’s yacht, Delightful Lady. Ashore a band plays live traditional Greek music until the early hours of the next morning serenading us to sleep.
We make a point of finding delicious treats for morning tea – below apple pie with ice cream and yours’ truly with gigantic cream cornet

Preveza is calm as usual and we anchor off the town. This is a popular spot for fishermen to catch prawns and lots of small boats are active most of the time and setting nets quite close to anchored vessels. This can be a nuisance and their often very loud engines wake you early in the morning, however you have to remember this is their livelihood while we’re just here having fun. 

Typical Greek fishing boat retrieving net

We meet Charles at the bus station and set off through the Lefkas canal’s swing bridge for a few days cruising with him south of Lefkas.
In the last week of October we head into Lefkas Marina where Tassos, an engineer from Internaftiki meets us to check out our stabilisers. He advises our hydraulic system pressure is too low at 90 bar and installs a new valve that enables adjustment of the system pressure. After adjusting the pressure to 100 bar the stabilisers are much less noisy when worked at rest using the potentiometer arm and Tassos thinks the problem is solved. Charles and I are not so sure – if they’ve been working fine at 90 bar for the last 12 years, why would we now need to increase the pressure? We weren’t able to do a sea trial while Tassos was there (in retrospect a big mistake) and will do this shortly.

Next Post – our last days aboard Envoy.

Dec. 2 – Beautiful Weekend

“May the waves kiss your feet, the sand be your seat and your friends outnumber the stars.” —Author Unknown

The first weekend in December was amazing here in Rockport…lots of sunshine, light winds and amazing temperatures. We enjoyed lots of community activities, visiting with friends at the winery, playing with our little girls and walking on the beach…I wish the weather every day could be this nice. People were out everywhere enjoying this beautiful weekend and the birds seemed to enjoy it just as much. Here are a few pictures of the entertaining pelicans I saw on my beach walk.



December 1, 2018
San Carlos, Mexico

We often get asked, “How is it to cruise on a powercat versus a monohull?  Don’t they flip all the time? Aren’t they more expensive to operate?  How about room at marinas?”  These questions, I must precise, come 100% from US and Canadian would-be-cat owners, as Kiwis and Aussies have long-embraced powercats as mid-and long-range platforms of choice.  But, for some obscure (or, perhaps, not-so obscure) reason, North-American boaters seem to have a deep distrust and misconceptions of powercats.

This distrust comes, we believe, from large-production powercats designed primarily for the charter business.  For economic reasons, these yachts pack 3-4 cabins and 3-4 heads on a small platform, the hulls being wide enough to accommodate guest berths, and on short hulls to minimize marina cost.  It’s basic: short + wide hulls = poor performance.  Typically, these boats slam in head seas, plow at any speed, and have a short range of 500-800 NM.  They are wonderfully perfect for a week charter in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, but totally unsuitable for trans-oceanic passages.  And so, the delivery skippers who must bring these boats from the constructor (European or South African) to the US market have a terrible ocean-crossing experience: the boat slams, the performance is poor, and the skipper is on edge the entire trip.  No wonder powercats have such a bad rep!  All it takes is a few negative comments from exhausted, all-knowing, professional delivery skippers to sow seeds of doubt into the yachties’ minds, and who can blame them?  But let’s not compare apples to oranges.  Charter yachts are wonderful for their application: a week or two of short cruise for 3-4 couples who want to have fun.  Small powercats with short-to-medium range are also wonderful to do the ICW or the Great Loop, to cruise the Med, to remain around New Zealand.  But they are not – I repeat, NOT – to be compared with the very few trans-oceanic powercats.  Of course, our DOMINO is such a ship, as others such as the newly-refurbished November Rain (another Malcolm Tennant design.) 

Fifteen years ago, we embarked on a journey with one main goal: to prove that a well-designed powercat was a very desirable cruising platform: faster, more fuel-efficient, safer, more comfortable,  more stable than any monohull in the same price bracket, with a go-anywhere and self-sufficient mentality.  We have cruised almost non-stop for 9 years, clocked 53,000 NM through 45 countries, completed 3 Transpacs, ditched a dozen hurricanes and shouldered a rogue wave, dropped anchor some 800 times, and—we think—have proven the point: powercats are a more desirable long-range cruising platform than monohulls.  I know we will not convince many people, especially in the US and Canada, but this is not about convincing anyone; we just wanted to share our final thoughts at the end of an incredible ride.  

Speed and Versatility – While the majority of monohulls cruise at 7-9 kts, our average speed over the entire 9 years has been 10 knots.  Sometimes we troll at 7.5 knots, and sometimes we run at 12 knots, sometimes we run away at 20 knots.  This power allows us to pick our departure and arrival time, wait for the latest weather report to decide on our route and dodge hurricanes.  

Fuel economy – DOMINO’s hull:width ratio is close to 16:1, which means that we have no hull speed.  We don’t need to unleash insane amount of power to go over our bow wave.  We have no bow wave, no wake.  As Malcom Tennant used to say, we “DISPLANE,” which is neither displacement nor planing, but rather a lifting of the entire hull once we hit a certain speed: at about 15-16 kts, the hulls lift about 15cm and the boat just flies.  It’s a sight! 
 As such, our fuel economy is (in moderate seas, at almost full load)
  • at 10 kts (1050 rpm), less than 5 gph  (better than 2 miles/gallon)
  • at 7.5 kts , 1.8 gph 
  • at 20 kts (2100 rpm), 24 gph
I’ll let you do the math and compare to a monohull’s performance.

Safety – Most monohulls come with only 1 engine. Some have a get-home engine, others have a sailing rig.  In most cases, this is OK, but how fast can a boat move on these minimal get-home systems? Will they get you home? Will the small engine be strong enough to push you against a nasty blow? Will the wind blow in the right direction to actually sail you home?  As for us, we felt much safer having two big John Deere 300 HP engines.  If one fails, the other one is able to keep us going at 7-8 knots for 8,000 NM!

We have seen very few trawlers in the South Pacific.  A few Nordhavn, all larger than 62’, and the excellent Reel Dreams (A Kadey Krogen 48-I think- with wind diesel engines) –  I know that smaller monohulls have made it around the world (EGRET) and I recall my favorite Nordhavn 57, BAGAN, making it to Tahiti, as well as some Rohmsdahl and Diesel Ducks, but compared to sailing yachts, very few motor yachts under 65’ cross from North America to the South Pacific.  I’m not sure why; perhaps few of us have a true spirit of adventure; or perhaps very few feel safe on a small boat.  Yet, we have safely crossed three times:
  • Galapagos to Marquesas and beyond (3,000 NM)
  • Marshall Islands to Midway to Hawaii (2800 NM)
  • Hawaii to La Paz (2800 NM)
(We were well underway from the Marshalls to Alaska —a 4,000 NM crossing— when a major storm forced us to ditch towards Hawaii!)

What about rolling over?  This may be the biggest objection we hear.  Cats capsize all the time!”  This is far from the truth for powercats.  It is true that some racing sailing cats push the envelope, over-canvassing their rigs, and some very famous yachtsmen have been lost that way; others under-laminate their hulls for the sake of performance, rendering them very fragile, and we indeed heard a PAN-PAN in Hawaii a few weeks ago to rescue a holed racing cat: the hull had delaminated and repeated beam-sea impacts holed the hull.  But it is not so with long-range powercats, and especially not of Tennant’s CS hull design.  These hulls have been tank-tested and never capsized.  Last month, while returning to Maui after escaping Hurricane LANE, we were surfing 10-12’ seas when a rogue wave appeared to starboard: a white wall, foaming and taller than our ship, slammed us.  To JP’s amazement, DOMINO tilted to 45* one way, slid a bit, tilted to 45* the other way, and went on surfing while shaking the white foam and green water from the flybridge.  I dare any monohull to behave as well as this powercat!  
And what if we had flipped?  We would not have sunk as this ship is un-sinkable, with multiple watertight compartments.  How would a monohull behave in such situation?  This is an open question.

Rooms with a view – Like their sailing cousins, powercats have spacious common living decks with large windows and amazing views.  In our case, we also elected to have our stateroom on the main level so that we never need to go up or down stairs for activities of daily living.  This one-level living has saved our knees and prevented accidental falls.  So, yes, we do consider this arrangement safer than any up-down set-up typical of a monohull.

No stabilizer needed – When we first considered a design, mono-vs-multihull, stabilization was our main concern.  I didn’t feel comfortable with handling paravanes, especially close to shore (crab pots) or in large seas.  We also were a bit concerned with draft associated with active fins sticking out from under the boat, a danger in reefy spots.  At the time, water ballast wasn’t an option, but our friends Wayne Hodgkins and Christine Kling are building their MOBIÜS aluminum monohull with water ballast, and we like that.  This said, catamarans have no need for stabilizer.
What with beam seas?  Haaaa. Beam seas!!! Tell me who enjoys 8-10’ beam seas?  While a sailboat will likely be fairly steady (but tilted at an angle) a powercat will sway, a short roll— tic-toc — but yes, it will roll and won’t be comfortable.  I have no idea how a monohull will behave in such seas, not having had the experience… so, you tell me!  I don’t think any of us enjoys beam seas: we wedge ourselves in and wait patiently for it to be over.  I must admit that DOMINO, being taller and narrower than ordinary cats, has a tendency to roll a bit more than others in beam seas.  However, its height prevent it from slamming.   That’s right, NO SLAMMING!

No slamming – That’s another complaint about catamarans, both sail and motor: slamming.  Again, this is a function of hull design and weight distribution.  Now, I’m not a designer and we trusted Malcolm Tennant and Eng. Anthony Stanton to come up with anti-slamming designs.  I’ll try to summarize in layman’s terms (please, be kind!)  The  knuckle first disperses the energy and lifts the boat; then, the “gullwing”-shaped wingdeck absorbs and disperses the wave’s energy through the tunnel, lifting the boat even further… at least that’s how I think it works.  DOMINO’s wingdeck is really high over the water, providing plenty of air-cushion space.  I’m not really sure how this magic of physics works, but all I know is that we don’t slam.

Shallow draft – Get close to shore without fear!  Our 4-5’ draft (depending on load) allows us to go where others can’t.   The Ragged Islands are notorious for their shallow waters? No problem!  Going over shallow reefs?  Carefully, but no problem.  Besides, the sacrificial wooden skegs provide the hulls with added protection.  And, without stabilizers sticking from their bottoms, powercats can really go shallow.  

What about maintenance?  Do powercats cost more than monohull trawlers?  
– Engines – With 2 engines, it makes sense that a powercat would be costlier to maintain than a one-engine trawler.  Yet, monohulls who have a get-to engine must maintain that engine as well or it may not get them home when needed; those with a sailing rig must also keep the rig in shape.  The comparison with a twin-diesel trawler is moot.
  While monohulls must maintain paravanes and/or active fins, keep their bow thrusters (and in some cases stern thrusters) in working order, powercats have no need for such devices.  So, cross that off the maintenance list.
– Oil changes are a function of miles traveled.  With a Reverso system, oil changes are a snap and cost of oil is not really an issue in maintenance.
– Fuel filters are a function of fuel quality.  Having a large capacity matters.  It allows the vessel to fuel up only at high-volume fuel docks.  Mono- or multi-hull, that’s the same issue.  In 9 years, we have not ever loaded any bad fuel, never had a drop of water in our fuel.  We stop at the pump only once or twice a year and change our filters once a year.  
– Fuel cost is a function of miles travelled and fuel efficiency.  As stated above in the fuel economy section, we are convinced that (efficiently-built) powercats cost less to operate than monohulls.  And I make this distinction: efficiently-built; many powercats have been designed to perform, yet once at the building yard either the builder or the owner or both start cutting corners by not respecting the specs (i.e. using timber instead of foam) and start loading the vessel with show-stopping items (i.e. marble, full panels of cherry wood, heavy chairs, etc…)  I’ve heard designers complain over and over again about it, their carefully engineered design now turned into a luxurious but sluggish tub.  
– Haulouts are similar, every 18 months to 2 years.  The cost of grinding and painting is equivalent.  Yards vary in their storage pricing policy and, on the average, we haven’t found a very significant difference (here, in San Carlos, all yachts pay the same price.)

All the advantages that we find in powercats — speed, fuel efficiency, safety, comfort, versatility— have convinced us that they are superior world-cruising platforms.  Yet, there MUST be some downsides, right?

Right!  Marina cost –  A 65’ yacht is not easy to berth, be it a monohull or a powercat.  They usually end up on an outer dock or an end-tie, and these are few but not impossible to find with a bit of advanced notice.  Since the price of berthing is per foot, yes a long boat costs more.  Sometimes we pay 50% more because of the width, sometimes not.  This said, we hardly spend more than a week/year at a marina, being totally self-sufficient and having no need for marina services.  We just anchor out! (In New York City, the marina wanted $400/day to berth us… we anchored for free for a month in front of Liberty State Park, free dinghy dock included, no neighbor, no noise!)

Pioneering – This reluctance to powercat was just brought up to my attention.  While there is plenty of info on cruising oceans on a monohull, there is hardly any write-up on crossing oceans on a powercat (in spite of my last 9 years of reporting.)  Frankly, I don’t see the difference.  The sea is the same, the conditions the same, and powercats’ higher speed capability allows them to thread through narrower weather windows (see our blog on TRANSPAC III as we ducked ahead of Hurricane WILLA.) 
When we splashed in 2009, we had never been on anything larger than our 21’ ski boat, had never spent a night on a boat, never been offshore, let alone crossed an ocean.  We learned, one day at a time.  We’ve done all the powercat pioneering and blogged about it, the good, the bad and the ugly!  So have our friends on NOVEMBER RAIN, now refurbished as a fantastic fishing charter based out of Vanuatu and New Zealand.

Few Powercats to choose from   Long-range powercats are few and far between.  Most of them are custom- or semi-custom built or one-offs —Sunreef and a few Aussies being the exception.  They are seldom seen at marinas for a good reason: they are out cruising!  In the end, these marvelous yachts remain unknown, almost mythical.  They quietly cruise the world in economy and comfort.

I first blogged about powercats on December 17, 2007.  That’s eleven years ago.  Since then, the page has logged over 600,000 reads.  JP and I hope that we have somewhat de-mystified the Passagemaking Powercats and encouraged a few of our readers to consider them as their next cruising platform.

For the love of powercats….

till next time,